I MMA C U L ATA U N I V E R S I T Y
Buddy Holly glasses and seemed, to me at least, to be rather short.
Needless to say, he grew taller with the years. We started dating, if you
can call it that, when I was in the eighth grade. I still remember that
first date. We went to a carnival at Our Lady of Fatima Parish.
When he was in high school, he always had two or three jobs going
at the same time, one of which I recall was at the Farmer’s Market.
He was a real go-getter, so it came as no surprise that he was also
the only kid on the block who had money and a car. But he had his
limits when shooting a basketball. Swinging at a baseball was another
matter. Karl was excellent at that sport, but I was not interested in
playing baseball. We played a lot of pick-up ball on Stratford Road,
and, strangely enough, his unorthodox shooting form really didn’t
seem to matter. Ah, young love!
My mother never played sports herself, but she certainly
understands their value. When we were growing up, her message
to all of us was, “Don’t give up. Find a way.” When there was a
problem, she never yelled, “You can’t do that!” Instead she would
suggest, “Let’s figure out what we’re going to do. Let’s find a way
to make this happen.”
When it was time to enter ninth grade at Cardinal O’Hara, tryouts
for the basketball team were coming up, and I was, of course, nervous.
Every day she would ask me, “Did they post the sign-up sheets yet?”
And she would always add, “If you want to be a leader, step in front.
One day when I was out back playing ball, I made a stupid mistake.
I can’t remember ever feeling so certain that my “budding career” was
going nowhere – and that now was the time to pitch the whole idea of
finding a future in sports. I threw the ball in the air, not bothering to
retrieve it, stomped into the kitchen, up tomy bedroom, yelling at the top
of my voice, “This is it for me. I don’t need this crazy game. These hours
and hours of practice, and I’m still playing like a beginner. I’m through
with all this. For once and for all, I’m finished. I quit!”
Of course, the window was open, and my mother overheard all that
I had said. She stormed up the stairs and lit into me: “Theresa, you have
a God-given talent. You have absolutely no right to throw it back into
His face. You have a responsibility to use that talent for Him and for His
people. Use it!”
Then she gave me this little card with the poem on it which read:
“Don’t quit!” Holy Moley! I never did that again. And I made the varsity.
We won the Catholic League Championship my first three years at
O’Hara. The title game was always played at the Palestra and always sold
out – before 8,100 fans. Because we played in the afternoon, all the girls
in both high schools would go to the game. The two schools would take
13, 14, 15 bus loads to the gym, which was located on the campus of the
University of Pennsylvania in West Philadelphia. The students would
scream for the entire game. I was hoping to make it four championship
games in a row in my senior year, but we lost to West Catholic.
I had always planned on going to college. I really wanted to study
physical education, so I thought about enrolling at Ursinus or West
Chester State. But my father said his daughter was not going to spend her
life in a gym, so that ruled out those two options. I applied for and won
a full academic scholarship to Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md., to
study science. That’s where I was going.
My mother wanted me to stay closer to home. Her personal choice
for me was Immaculata. I had been taught by the IHMs in grade school
and high school, and I wanted a different experience. But my mother
was insistent. So, without telling her, I applied and had my interview
set up for the 15th of March, the Ides of March. I figured I’d just get a
ride out to the school, have the interview, and make everybody happy.
But that Sunday morning, our house burned down. My mother,
father, Anthony, and I were home that day.
My little sister and my two brothers were
at the children’s nine o’clock Mass. A basket
of clothing next to the furnace had caught
fire. I was upstairs at the time and heard my
mother shouting, using that voice she had
when something was terribly wrong. I came
downstairs, realized how upset she was, and
saw smoke. My father had burned his arms
and hands in an effort to extinguish the fire.
All of us got out, but by the time the fire
department arrived, it was too late to save the
house. I still remember one of the firemen
saying, “I hope everyone got out.” My parents
lost everything. So did I.
That afternoon, I decided family came
first, and I made re-arrangements for my
interview. I borrowed a pair of shoes and a suit
and went out to Immaculata. The first thing I
did when I arrived was to ask to be directed
to the Financial Aid Office. I had no money.
It was March. All the scholarships were taken.
When I was accepted, I had no idea how I was